Onward March, the Ghosts of War!
Five American soldiers roam the French countryside during the tail end of World War II. They are supposed to relieve a group of soldiers holding a French Chateau as per orders from above. Along the way, they meet a group of Nazi soldiers they cruelly dispatch, as well as some Jewish refugees that they help. When they arrive at the Chateau, the men occupying it are eager to leave, and do so quickly. The five men have a giant mansion to themselves and they are thrilled. It is stocked with food and wine and for the first time in a long time, they’ll be able to sleep in beds. Trouble is, something else lives in the house with them, the ghosts of former owners, all mercilessly murdered by Nazi soldiers. These ghosts are restless and vengeful, and they apparently take the Americans’ arrival as some sort of threat. Odd and eerie things begin to happen, and very quickly these men understand why the soldiers stationed here before them were so desperate to clear out. But they’re stuck with their orders, and they have to stay until they get the word to move out. Will they solve the mystery of the Chateau filled with malevolent ghosts, or will they become the next victims of this haunted house?
Ghosts of War is a tricky little film. It’s a straight ghost story for most of its running length. There’s spectral appearances, footsteps in flour spread across the floor, visions of suffering and pain, and lots of strange occurrences. It plays things pretty by the book including CGI ghosts with pale skin and black eyes. But then…the movie takes a turn. At this point, you’ll either be incredibly pleased and thrilled, or you will think it’s a crock of bullshit. I was all-in and although it was absolutely absurd, I really enjoyed it. The twist makes an average movie into something that, while not an instant classic, is surely something more than it was. I won’t reveal it here but let me tell you, it’s a really nice surprise. Beyond the mechanics of the film, there’s a lot of heart here. We see the cruelty of war and what it does, not just to the innocent bystanders, but to the soldiers tasked with fighting it. Hell, I even felt sort of sorry for a couple of the Nazi characters. Though they deserve their deaths, this film somehow makes them feel very human in the space of the few seconds they are on the screen. They feel like guys who have families back home and when they get dispatched, it hurts a little. A little. They are Nazis, after all.
Writer/Director Eric Bress (creator of Kyle XY and wrote a couple Final Destination films) has made a fine little horror movie here. It’s hard to call it “little,” because the budget certainly appears to be decent, although that might all be trickery, too. In any case, he’s made a great and surprising film. I’m looking forward to what he will do in the future, given the ingenuity in this one. I’d definitely recommend this one, with the caveat that you might not like the direction it takes, but you gotta admire the guts Bress had to pull this one off. This is a movie that feels generic, even down to it’s title, but don’t let that fool you. This one is a hidden gem.